To the sound of steel drums playing Caribbean music, Southwest Airlines on Monday announced it will fly to Aruba, the Bahamas and Jamaica starting July 1, the first international destinations served by the Dallas-based carrier.
The flights, to depart from Atlanta, Baltimore and Orlando, are currently served by Southwest's subsidiary AirTran Airways. Southwest is still integrating AirTran into its system, nearly three years after it purchased the Atlanta-based carrier in May 2011.
"By the end of this year, all of the international flying that is currently taking place on AirTran will be converted over to Southwest," Southwest Chief Executive Gary Kelly said at a news conference held at the company's Dallas Love Field headquarters.
Tickets went on sale Monday for daily nonstop flights. Later this year, the company plans to add the Mexican destinations of Cancun, Los Cabos and Mexico City as well as Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. Those cities are all currently served by AirTran.
Kelly said the company is focused on transferring all of AirTran's international flying to Southwest's system in 2014 and will consider expanding to additional international destinations in 2015. Southwest expects its new five-gate international terminal at Houston Hobby to be completed by the end of 2015.
Although Dallas Love Field customers still will not be able to fly directly to international destinations even after the Wright Amendment restrictions are lifted in October, Kelly said they will be able to connect to international destinations, particularly through Houston once the international gates are ready.